EDITORIAL: DePasquale makes right call to audit West York Area School District

York Dispatch
  • The longtime principal at West York Area High School is being paid more than $125,000.
  • According to a release agreement between Janet May and the district, May is not allowed to work.
  • That decision has led to an audit of the district by the Pennsylvania auditor general.

When you pay someone north of $125,000 to stay at home, it’s going to raise a few eyebrows.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has decided to audit the West York Area School District.  John A. Pavoncello photo

When that money is coming from the taxpayers, it’s going to raise a stink.

That’s the situation that the West York Area School District finds itself in.

The school district has a new leader in Superintendent Todd Davies, who succeeded longtime superintendent Emilie Lonardi in December.

As often happens when a new leader takes over any organization, there have been some changes made since Davies took over.

Controversial buyout: One of those changes, however, included a controversial buyout of the high school’s longtime principal, Janet May, who left her position suddenly in February.

Former West York HS principal to be paid through March 2019 for no-show job

May is now in a ghost role as the middle school assistant principal until March 7, when her retirement will take effect. She will receive a salary of more than $125,000, but she is not allowed to work, according to a release agreement between May and district.

The school board unanimously approved that deal.

Auditor General steps in: That agreement caught the attention of Pennsylvania’s auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, who announced last week that his office will audit the district in light of the May situation. Two other administrators have also left their positions since May’s move.

Another shake-up for West York Area School District administration

It seems apparent that Davies wants administrators of his own choosing to be put in place.

Board president Toddy Gettys admitted as much, saying “the parties decided it was best for Dr. Davies and the school board to be given the opportunity to select a new administrative leader at the high school.”

There’s nothing wrong with Davies wanting to put his own people in place. There’s no doubt that a new superintendent should have a lot of say in the administrators who work for him. At the same time, however, when it comes at such a high cost, some questions need to be asked and answered.

That’s especially true when someone of May’s stature is involved. She’s been at West York for many years and undoubtedly has many supporters throughout the district who likely were unhappy to see her go.

 “While staff turnover is not unusual in school districts, it is important that contract buyouts and other district actions are closely reviewed and vetted by board members to ensure that they are in the best interest of the students and taxpayers,” DePasquale said in a news release.

The right call: DePasquale’s decision to audit West York is absolutely the proper one. When you pay someone more than $125,000 to not work, there needs to be some sort of investigation.

Still, no wrongdoing of any kind has yet been proven and DePasquale vows that he’s going into the audit with an open mind, promising a “tough, fair, independent audit.”

West York district officials say they welcome auditor general's review

To their credit, the folks at West York say they have nothing to hide and welcome the audit.

“We are an open book,” Davies said. “We do a great job keeping records.”

School board treasurer George Margetas also didn’t have a problem with DePasquale’s decision.

“Mr. DePasquale’s doing his job,” Margetas said. “The school district followed all the proper procedures and policies in place for these situations. I’m confident that there’s no wrongdoing that’s there.”

Transparency is key: The West York officials, at least publicly, are being cooperative.

Of course, if DePasquale’s eventual audit is not completely complimentary, that attitude could change quickly.

For now, however, everyone seems to be acting like adults, which, in this charged political climate, is a refreshing change of pace.